Posts Tagged ‘jesus’

The Body, The Blood, The Machine

If you didnt know already, i like to listen to alot of music. All types. This week I dug out the second to last CD of one of my favorite bands of the past few years, The Thermals – “The Body The Blood The Machine”. I haven’t listened to it in a while and I forgot how good the songs were, and how clever and yet scathing the lyrics are, delivered in very catchy melodic punk rock goodness. As you can probably tell from the title, the album reads like a critique of American Christianity from someone who was raised in “the Church”, but ultimately left. Interestingly enough beneath the sarcasm and irony that the singer Hutch Harris puts into his words, you get the sense that he isn’t saying these things out of anger, but more from of a place of disappointment, and feeling let down by the church. His lyrics are honest and you even get a sense of innocence and longing for something greater than himself.

Maybe it’s just me, but I always try and find the subtext of a persons words, and I often try to read between the lines and see if I can come away with a different interpretation of ones words that is unlike or contrary to the plain, literal interpretation that I get after reading it superficially. I guess I don’t always like things mapped out for me, I like to guess, and wonder and sometimes spend way too much time trying to figure out the meanings in things that are pretty cut and dried for most. That must be why I like reading the Bible since it’s full of stuff you can interpret any number of ways, and if you don’t think so then ask yourself why there are over 38000 reported denominations of Christianity. Everyone brings their own unique viewpoint to what they read and they interpret it in the framework of their world, their existence, and their experiences, for better or for worse. So when one person reads the following lyrics and sees it as a mockery, another might read it and see it as a statement about the self perspective of American Christianity, while another person might actually read it more literally.

The Thermals
Here’s Your Future

God reached his hand down from the sky
He flooded the land, when he set it afire

He said, “Fear me again, know I’m your father,
Remember that no one can breathe underwater.”

So bend your knees and bow your heads
Save your babies, here’s your future…

YEAH HERE’S YOUR FUTURE!!!

God reached his hand down from the sky
God asked Noah if he wanted to die
He said, “No Sir, oh, no Sir!”
God said, “Here’s your future.
It’s gonna rain…”

So we packing our things
We’re building a boat
We’re gonna create the new master race
‘Cause we’re so pure, oh Lord we’re so pure!!!

So here’s your future…

God told his son, “It’s time to come home.
I promise you won’t have to die all alone.
I need you to pay for the sins I create.”
Son said, “I will, but Dad, I’m afraid!!!”

So here’s your future…
So here’s your future…
So here’s your future.

When i read these words I don’t get the feeling that it’s “Anti Christian”, per say, I think the singer just has trouble rectifying what he sees religion do and what he hears religion say. And I think we all have these same questions in our lives at different times, if we are to live honestly with ourselves. Which is what I think the Thermals are doing with their music. Making honest observations and packaging them in 3 minute pop songs. It’s up to us to listen and interpret for ourselves, taking the good with the bad. What’s my interpretation, especially being that I consider myself a follower of Jesus? I take what they say with a grain of salt, acknowledging the frustration, and their sometimes contradictory interpretations of things that I see completely different, and then I apply and look for the good and the redemptive in it, try to find the hidden nugget to take away from the experience and keep for myself. I guess that is how i can listen to or read stuff that is 180 degrees from where I’m at. It helps to open my eyes. Sometimes only to another persons experience. And that’s worth it to me.

I Hold The Sound

the light out
we don’t talk
the light out
we sleep now
the door locked
the door locked
we don’t talk
we sleep now

i hold you
i hold the sound
we sleep now

it’s safe now
we can move
the world is over
the world is over
it’s early still
the sun is cold
the world is over
the world is over

i hold you
i hold the sound
i hold the sound
i hold the sound

we walk now
we can breathe
the earth is flat
the sky is round
it’s early still
the moon is cold
we walk now
we walk alone

i hold you
i hold the sound
i hold the sound
i hold the sound
i hold the sound
i hold the sound

the light out
we don’t talk
the light out
we sleep now

Advertisements

Dear Jesus,
Last week while I was at work the ground shook. It happened two days in a row, and both were only minor quakes, but it got me thinking about the probability of the Big One hitting the bay area again. Well the big one hit yesterday, but not here. It hit Haiti, and I think it is going to prove to be one of the most horrific occurrences the modern world has seen in quite a while. By now everyone has seen the grisly images and heard the statistics. The entire capital city flattened. Hundreds of thousands dead. Bodies piled in the streets. Disease and social disorder will be widespread in what was already the most impoverished nation in this hemisphere. But amidst all of the bombardment of the media with pictures of dead children and crushed buildings, we hear stories of hope, of humanity coming together to help those in need, and of the generosity of people the world over giving their money to help with the relief effort. These stories remind us that we are all one family, all children of God. They help us get through the tough times. But then we also hear the words of the prideful and the arrogant, who presume to know the mind of God, who in their shameful hubris claim that this disaster is divine retribution for a sin committed long ago by their forefathers. They say these things with the smug confidence that they are right. And the worst part is they say these things in your name.

Now I don’t presume to know the mind of God, and I don’t claim to be better than anyone. I am merely a fool struggling to make his way through a complex world, but I do know a few things about the character of Christ, and I find that the nature of Christ stands in opposition to what these people say and do in the name of Christ. And what’s worse is that these people are in a position of power, a position where they can lead their followers to extend their hands in love to assist those that need it, as the Good Samaritan did to the wounded man in the old parable. Yet they choose to judge and disregard, they choose to speak from a place of folly and ignorance, they do not consider what you would do, how you would want them to act. Forgive me Jesus for my own presumptuousness but my heart burns with anger when a “Christian leader” turns his back and disregards the poor, the meek and the needy with such insensitivity. Where is the compassion of Christ? Where is the love of God? Suspiciously absent in my eyes. These are the people who are supposed to be guiding your flock by example, yet I see more Christianity in the atheists on the ground making a difference. I see Jesus in the person who is reaching out for the sake of humanity. Now I know there are people there who are helping in your name, who are there with a genuine sense of compassion and love working hard in your name, putting their money where their mouths are, and I’m thankful for them! They are doing God’s work so please bless them for it. But as for pharisee’s like Pat Robertson? I can only pray that you soften their hearts towards people less fortunate than them, towards the poor, the needy and the downtrodden and that they can lead their flocks, their churches, in the right direction of serving their brothers and sisters in love, in the direction of true Christianity, not this socio-political ideology that passes for American Christianity. I guess until then, you wont be seeing me in church much.

Dear Jesus,
A good friend of mine called me up this past Saturday morning to inform me that his sister had died. She hung herself in her house and her boyfriend of 10 years had come home and found her. I was shocked by the news but strangely not too surprised. I had known her previously and knew she was a sensitive soul who carried a burden. What I didnt know was that she had tried this before and failed. Not this time. My friend, Dave, now has no immediate blood relatives since he and his sister were the last ones left. I obviously expressed my sorrow and sympathy for him and his wife and their little year old son and during our discussion over why she did this, we ended up on the subject of God. (but of course!)

My friend Dave is a traditional guy, with very traditional biblical views, and one of those views, which is very common among most bible readers and believers is that people who commit suicide are damned. Obviously he is having a hard time dealing with this concept in regards to his sister.

What do I say? My best answer is “I dont know”. While I know what the churches and the bible say (and the bible isnt explicit when it comes to this subject), I have to go with what my heart tells me. For better or for worse my heart is my spiritual barometer when it comes to these subjects that are not clearly defined in the bible, and I believe that God speaks to me through my heart often(whether I listen or not is subject matter for another post some other time).

When i think of God i think of the greatest presence in the universe and how that presence is active in my life. I can say without hesitation that God is active in my life, because I’ve seen and felt God’s presence and action on numerous occasions and in different ways. And what i’ve seen and felt mostly is a great sense of peace, occasionally intense joy, and ultimately what i can only describe as love. Now this isnt everyday mind you. But it’s there and it’s real. It is from within these experiences that I cant imagine the God who sustains me, even in all my folly and hard headedness, maintaining a place of eternal torture and damnation. I guess you can call me a hippie, but that doesnt seem characteristic of my God. And it is in light of this, and my studies of scripture, that I dont see how hell, and even the devil, fit into the great equation. I guess the cat’s out of the bag now. Some people ask me how i can believe in God, and in the power of Christ, without believing in the devil and hell. It’s not complicated, and it’s even scriptural, but not all of my beliefs are dependent upon scripture. And it’s at this point where I lose many folks, my family included, because they might have difficulty accepting what has not been written down or difficulty trying to get a handle on the unknown, and ultimately want everything drawn out for them. And I cant blame them really, because at least then you can sleep at night thinking that what you believe is concrete, tried and true, historically accurate and proven truth.

But who here can claim to know the mind of God? Or who here can say they know with 100% certainty where they will go after death, and who can say with any certainty, where someone else will go, whether by suicide or not. You see, Jesus, I believe in you and your greatest act of love and mercy, and I believe that that act was done for all mankind, for me, for my family, for Dave, for his sister, for everyone, and it is in that great act of love and mercy that I believe that even those who didnt know you here, who never experienced your love, or even those who ran from you, will have a chance to meet you and experience you and your gift, because I believe that it is not your will or desire for any of us to be lost, as a shepherd leaves his flock to find the one lost sheep, i do believe you intercede for us even after our deaths. I know there is no scripture to back that up, but my heart tells me so.

We are mere humans here, fumbling through a complex world that often gets the best of us in this life. We suffer from so many self inflicted spiritual maladies that they ultimately add up to a lack of vision, which is why we do these self destructive things, one of them being suicide. When we get so lost in ourselves and so disconnected from ourselves, our loved ones and more importantly God, that we can rationalize destroying ourselves, without thinking of how it will affect our families, our friends, or without giving hope a chance to grow, or even refusing to see hope as an alternative, we have lost our ability to see outside ourselves. They say suicide is a selfish act, and I believe it is, but i cant judge, because I dont know a persons heart. That is between them and God. And it is my hope and prayer that when that deed is done, Christ meets their soul as healer and dresses the wounds that led them down their path of self destruction here on earth, and bestows the peace and wholeness they never found here on earth.

One can dream can’t he?

Dear Jesus,
I got this CD the other day and I’ve been listening to it non-stop, which is unusual for me these days. It’s that good.It’s by a guy named David Bazan, and the name of the CD is “Curse Your Branches”.

David Bazan - Curse Your Branches

I’ve been a fan of his and his band “pedro the lion” for some time. This is probably his best work he’s ever done, but that’s besides my point. I was giving it my first full listen while driving around doing errands with my 11month old daughter, when the last song came on called “In Stitches“. I sat in my car listening to the words, and wept as I watched my baby daughter sleep. This song breaks my heart in a way no other song has, because song deals with some of the most basic, spiritual questions we as humans have the capacity to ask. It also breaks my heart because this song, and to a larger extent this whole CD is a breakup letter to God.

Faith is a gift, yet it is also a choice, and we can choose to believe or not. Sometimes, when we see all the awful shit that goes on in the world we can’t justify in ourselves the existence of God. I’ve had my days of wondering myself, and I know things will continue to happen that will challenge the very foundation of my faith for the rest of my life. But I’m okay with that. Because I know that life is just that way. Life is tough. Nothing’s guaranteed, nothing is secure, but I do believe that everything is in God’s hands which are much more capable than mine, so I try to trust in God that there is a purpose and reason for everything. And it is in this thought that I wept for my daughter, because she, in all her present beautiful innocence, will grow to see horrors in her lifetime, and will grow to have her sense of God challenged, and will be faced with these same questions that she will have to either find answers for or be content with not knowing. And all I as her flawed and fallen father can do is hold a signpost for her that points the way towards God, and hope and pray that when she has done her questioning, soul searching and spiritual journeying, that she comes through it all with a sense that God is real and present in her life, even in the small things. And it’s not about her knowing God as defined by a particular religion, it’s about her knowing God as the omniscient presence in the universe, yet still concerned with, and active in her life. And that is a simple truth that i fully believe because I’ve been blessed to have experienced God first hand in my life when I was not expecting or asking for it. And i dont know why I’ve been fortunate enough to have an experience when others might not have. Maybe God knew my character enough to know that in my darkest hours, the only thing that would keep me from fully letting go of everything, was the memory of that experience and the fact that i can not deny it.

Ultimately, at the end of the day, I know that life is long and people change, and where I was 10 years ago is not where I am at now, and who knows where I’ll be in 10 years. So when i think about David Bazan and his breakup letter to God, I tend to think that they’ll get back together again someday, because I think he’s asking the right questions. And in time they’ll work things out. God is patient and always ready for us to talk to him again.

In Stitches – David Bazan

my body bangs and twitches
some brown liquor whets my tongue
my fingers find the stitches
firmly back and forth they run
i need no other memory
of the bits of me i left
when all this lethal drinking
is to hopefully forget
about you
i might as well admit it
like i even have a choice
the crew have killed the captain
but they still can hear his voice
a shadow on the water
a whisper in the wind
on long walks with my daughter
who is lately full of questions
about you
when Job asked you the question
you responded “who are you
to challenge your creator?”
well if that one part is true
it makes you sound defensive
like you had not thought it through
enough to have an answer
like you might have bit off
more than you could chew

Dear Jesus,
I often feel like I’m all alone out here. Spiritually. It seems like it is so hard to find others that think similarly, or even remotely close to how I see things. Maybe I’m whack, but I don’t think I’m that different. I go to churches and they, for the most part, usually disturb my spirit because they either grossly misinterpret the Bible, emphasize the donation of money a little too much, or they push their political agenda above the importance of the spiritual livelihood of their flocks. I’ve gone to a number of churches too and I always leave thinking the same thing “What does this have to do with the love of Jesus?” or “How does this make God more real to people who don’t know Him?”. I don’t get it, there seems to be a lot of religion going on, but not enough spirit. And that’s what I need, something to feed and challenge my spirit, because I also cant hang with the flip side either. The anti-religious, purely intellectual type that has no mental room for anything spiritual. The ones who cant or wont see the spiritual side to science, the ones who are condescendingly positive that there is nothing outside of our flesh and blood.

So I keep going. Keep learning, keep reading, keep growing closer to you. You transcend any labels or boxes that we try to bind you with in the form of religion. You are the immeasurable, unthinkable, incomprehensible. You manifest yourself as you will, when speaking to us, and it wont always fit in our nice, neat, safe definition of you. You will challenge us in our preconceived notions of you, and most of us will not choose to meet that challenge, because it’s too foreign, too scary. But you are a merciful and loving God and you love us despite our small mindedness. Or our mental fragility. We cling to our ideas because we feel safe in them. But you want to draw us out of that safety into truth, and truth can be scary, because we are not in control of truth. But you are merciful and loving, and i believe that even if we never take that step, that you will continue to love us for eternity, in our weakness and fragility, for “your power is made perfect in our weakness”.

Dear Jesus,
I was at the grocery store the other day heading over to the dairy aisle, when I saw two boys, both around 5 or so, pushing their parents shopping carts towards each other like on a two lane road. The boys had steered their carts a little too close to each other and slightly bumped each others carts. The boys looked at each other and then began trying to push the other’s cart to the side and it basically devolved into a pissing match between two 5 year olds whose parents had to come and force the kids to stop. Funny thing is that, when you think of it, we, as a species, never really outgrow that mindset of aggression and confrontation. Yes we may learn to curb it, or channel it differently, but mankind is still trying to smash his neighbor with a shopping cart in one way or another. Literally and figuratively. Yes, folks, for those of you who think that people are born naturally good, filled with goodwill towards his brother, think again. Don’t call me a pessimist, call me a realist. And while people are not born innately good, they are however not born innately evil.

It’s funny. Without getting into the semantics of defining “good” and “evil”, I think we are born with the capacity for both good and evil, and most of us spend our lives teetering back and forth between the two. I’m not afraid to say that I have done some pretty evil shit in my time, but I have also done some pretty decent stuff too. Now evil doesn’t necessarily have to be killing someone with an axe. It can be as simple as lying about something to affect a different outcome of a situation, or any number of things. I prefer to call a spade a spade, and can recognize my capacity for wrongdoing, and the struggle within to stay on the straight and narrow, and my often pathetic failure to do so. I recognize the comical condition we are born into for what it is. Our flesh vs. our spirit. Or the Id and the Super-Ego. I love how Buddhism recognizes that this is the eternal struggle, and that only by shedding the Id, or letting go of these desires within ones self, can one truly become enlightened or free. I think that this is what modern Christianity has lost or forgotten. There are parallels between Biblical Christianity and Buddhism that I think many would be surprised to find. Not just in the teachings of Jesus (who I think is the great Buddha), but also even in the old testament. In fact a very Buddhist like saying is attributed to God himself in Genesis in the story of Cain and Abel, when Cain gets angry because Abel’s sacrifice is deemed more acceptable to God. The verse goes “Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”

You can easily find more parallels. You just gotta look. But I digress. Back to the discussion of being born good or evil. Sadly, like most things in life, it’s not so black and white. we are born into the grey area, and it’s the choices we make in life that either gradually turn that grey into white or black. Or it just stays grey. As for me, I wont pretend to be something I’m not. I’m a stumbling fool, who, like a dog returning to it’s vomit, has a terrible tendency to repeat the same mistakes over and over, which I guess brings me to my point here. See Jesus, without you I think I’d be fu…… er.. screwed. Knowing the things I do WITH your presence in my life, scares me to think of what kind of shit I would do WITHOUT you in my life. I often think that when I first met you at 7 years old, it was really out of your mercy that I was so young because you saw what and who i would become without you. So much has happened since then too. I have been through times of great doubt, and times of spiritual discovery, and I feel you have walked with me every step of the way, and carried me for much of it. And it is in this knowledge and understanding that I see your existence and work as the gift that it is, because without you i’m lost, and i dont mean lost in some silly, feel-good superficial, churchy way, but lost in an “I’m sooooooo fucked” metaphysical, quantum mechanical, sub-atomic way. Knowing I’m such a screwup, I’m banking on you, and your mercy in the end. Because honestly, that is all i have to stand on. Nothing I do can undo the wrong I’ve done. But because you forgave for once and for all, for all time, I am free, because i’m not bound to my sin. And while I continue to walk with you and get to know you even better, I will continue to grow and change, and slowly my grey will not be so grey, and over time, the mastery of self, the letting go of the Id, will get easier and easier. And Christ will be in me, and I in Him.

Dear Jesus,
I know you don’t generally care for politics too much but I’m somewhat perplexed about something that’s been happening in my country recently. Now as Son of God, you have strong opinions about how we should treat each other. Terms like “compassion” and “neighbor” you did not use lightly and you often illustrated your points by using parables, so that even the slowest of the slow, like myself, could grasp the concept. Now a parable that comes to mind for the present time is the parable of the Good Samaritan, and how the Samaritan had compassion on the man who had been beaten and left for dead by bandits. In his compassion, he not only takes the victim up on his donkey but he dresses his wounds, and then pays for his stay at an inn, until he gets better. The part of the parable that I think has relevance today for our country is that a person had compassion on is neighbor, no matter who they were, and gave of himself and his own resources to make sure that they were taken care of in their time of need.

In light of this parable, and pretty much most of the rest of your teachings, it really baffles me how people who proclaim to be your followers, would be against something like healthcare reform. Obviously if something is broken it should be fixed, right? See, i don’t understand why they are so angry and afraid of the concept of giving and sharing, when you were all about those things. They scream bloody murder and socialism. When it comes down to it though, Jesus, you were pretty much a socialist yourself, talking about giving to the poor, sharing what you have etc. In fact I think you would be all for social healthcare and that if you were here today living in America, you wouldn’t mind paying a little more if it meant that those who can’t afford healthcare could get the treatment they need. I know I dont mind. It’s the least I can do to help my neighbor who is in need. Or my neighbor’s children. Or my neighbors elderly father. See, I cant look them in the eye and say “Sorry, you cant afford it…guess you’ll just have to pray”, because, while I believe in the power of prayer, I also know that we are supposed to be the hands and feet of God on earth, and we are bound, no, obligated to be our brother’s keepers and to care for and love them. And since I can’t heal the sick like you could Jesus, at the very least i can help pay for their doctor’s fees or prescriptions.

Now Jesus, I’m a simple man, as you already know, and I dont know the ins and outs of this reform thing, but what I do know is that the current system is broken and it’s only benefiting the big companies, so it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to know that change, while probably not perfect, will at least be the catalyst that gets the wheels rolling towards the process of fixing things in the bigger picture.

So, Jesus, in the end I hope that you can touch the hearts of those who are so vehemently trying to stop the healthcare reforms while doing so in your name. I hope you can remind them of who you really are and of what matters in the end. Not how much less taxes they’ll have to pay so they can afford their SUV’s or Seadoo’s, but how much they can give to the needy, the sick and the widowed. That’s all I ask.